In a sense, I felt like I lost one of my wheels today. As a bicyclist, I think this metaphor is particularly appropriate. I have been prepping for DFWCon for weeks (a writers conference billed as the largest one in Texas, with lots of wonderful industry professionals and fellow writers in attendance). I was looking forward to being a part of the conference, going to the classes, making new friends, and pitching my science fiction novel, Alien Neighbors. To my frustration, I developed a minor (although thank God, easily treatable) medical issue, but it was enough to stop me from attending. I think there is an important lesson here. There are NO career breaking moments. My writing career was not dependent on this conference. What it is dependent on, is that I stay the course. I must admit today was a bit rough, but I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and continue the journey. We are writers – that is what we do.
I am learning what it truly means to be a writer. Perhaps we should be called “revisioners.” Writing excellence typically requires rewrites. While it may seem like a painful and tedious process – it can actually be fun. Seeing your story improve is like watching your child practice something and start to get really good at it. Remember, it’s all in your perspective. When you find yourself needing to rewrite something – view it as a wondrous opportunity, rather than a chore. You’ll be so glad to see the results when you are done!
When someone dies, their last words are typically formed around what they hold to be most important, those things most dear to them. The person is speaking from their heart regarding their greatest concerns. Even in dying, we can see that for Jesus, His greatest concern was for us, rather than the excruciating pain that He was bearing. His desire to articulate His thoughts from the cross must have brought shock waves of pain as He struggled to lift His torn body upward against the nails, to draw enough breath to speak. Scripture records that Jesus spoke seven times. Let’s examine more closely these words He deemed so important, He uttered them from the cross in the midst of His passion.
I would like to share some insights garnered from a little book by Russel Bradley Jones called Gold from Golgotha. Jones writes “Everything at Calvary is significant, but in a very special sense the Savior’s seven words, spoken from the heart of His vicarious suffering, interpret Him to mankind.”
- Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34
In the midst of great suffering, Jesus was thinking of others, not Himself. He had come for the lost and in that prayer He was asking His Father to give them a chance, instead of the condemnation they deserved. He asked God to allow them a chance to believe. Russel Jones points out that in the Greek original, “Then Jesus said” might be changed to “Then Jesus kept saying.” The verb is imperfect, indicating continuous action in past time. Jesus’ prayer was a continuous petition on our behalf in the midst of His suffering!
- One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43
Jesus was faced with temptation just as He was in the wilderness and in the Garden of Gethsemane. One thief asked for physical release, goading Jesus by challenging Him to show His power and save them if He really was the Christ. The other thief appealed to Jesus to “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He wasn’t asking for release from his cross, but from his sin. What is amazing is the choice before Jesus – the cessation of torture or the prize of His agony: totally unworthy sinners such as the self-confessed criminal hanging next to Him – and each one of us!
- When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. – John 19:26-27
Notice, Jesus said woman instead of mother. He assigned John as His substitute and in those words severed His earthly relationship with Mary, so she would be free to have the higher relationship of believer, with Jesus as her Savior. Heartbreaking as it must have been for both of them, it was necessary for Mary to lose her son in order to gain her salvation.
- About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46
2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus suffered for our sin at the cross, in the God-forsaken depths of agony. Jesus’ soul cries out as He descends into hell for us – His Father is no longer there.
In this terrible time of forsakenness, we see the evidence of God’s wrath towards sin. Because Jesus was assuming the sin of the world, God’s attitude towards sin forced Him to turn His back on His beloved Son. This speaks to the incomprehensible sacrifice of both the Father and the Son – all for the sake of love.
- Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” – John 19:28
Jesus said “I am thirsty” after “all was now completed.” What He set out to do at the cross was complete. There was nothing more to be done. Jesus was also fulfilling prophecy and identifying Himself as the Messiah in those three simple words. In Psalm 69 His suffering is predicted, and that of His thirst when He would be offered vinegar to drink.
- When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. – John 19:30
In the original Greek, “it is finished” may be translated as one word – “tetelestai” meaning “It was finished and as a result it is forever done.” There is nothing left to be done to complete the work that the Lord Jesus Christ perfected at the cross. “It” is the suffering of the full punishment of all guilt for all time. He paid the penalty due for sin with His perfect sacrifice. Sinners can now approach God through their faith in Jesus and because of His righteousness. A place in heaven is now possible because God’s divine justice has been satisfied. Nothing more is needed.
- Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said his, he breathed his last. – Luke 23:36
The last words of Jesus show His death was voluntary, that He chose to give up His life for us. In His final words He is the Victorious Son, committing His all to His Father. This is the best example for us – a voluntary commitment of ourselves into the hands of God with all that we are and have.
We can’t understand everything that Christ said in His final hours, but there is much that we can and should study and reflect on. In Russel Jones’s words, “Golgotha is the place where the contrast between the Savior’s heart of grace and man’s heart of rebellion is most striking. Golgotha is the focal point of revelation and history and experience. There God did His best and man did his worst. There faith is justified, hope assured, and love conquers.”
I have had several folks ask me why I decided to take on such a complicated and time-consuming endeavor, with all of the work involved that forming a community writing group entails. A moment of insanity perhaps? Like the time I decided to coordinate a district science fair for my son’s charter school? Or start an ESL ministry at our church with four levels of classes? Actually, it is very satisfying to be operating in the areas that God has gifted me with, while helping others to be successful; it’s a “win-win” even if it’s exhausting at times.
To further my explanation, we have some tremendous writing groups in the DFW area of Texas, but none in Carrollton, a suburb of Dallas. I personally don’t want to drive twenty miles to Euless fighting traffic on a weekday evening every week, even though I am aware of a fantastic critique group that has met there for years. I thought perhaps there may be some like-minded writers in my area. I posted in our city’s community Facebook page and on Nextdoor to see if anyone was interested, and the response I received was HUGE! I created a Facebook group and now, in less than six weeks, we have had our inaugural meeting with twenty writers in attendance and have had forty members join our Facebook group so far!
The paradox for me is that in committing to this venture, I have actually reduced the time I have to write. However, the payoffs have already been enormous. To see the excitement and enthusiasm our group is creating among our members is wonderful. To experience the generosity of Marshall’s Bar-B-Q and Carrollton Church of the Nazarene in providing free space for us to meet is gratifying. To reach out to established members of the writing industry in search of guest speakers and to receive an overwhelmingly positive response is marvelous.
So here we go – at the start of a grand adventure. I am learning as I go along, but we are blessed to belong to an industry that is known for giving back, so I know I am not going it alone. I am finding that starting a writing group is not easy, but it is also extremely satisfying to know that a real need is being filled:
Carrollton League of Writers exists to help writers in all genres and experience levels to improve their writing skills and to move towards publication if desired. We provide working writing sessions that include read and critique sessions and creative writing exercises. We also provide guest speakers to educate and inform from various facets of the writing industry, networking opportunities, and a chance to socialize and hang out with others who share the grand passion of writing.
If you are ever in the Carrollton area on a Thursday night – I hope you’ll join us. If you are thinking of starting a writing group in your own area – I hope you’ll go for it. It won’t be easy, but it will be well-worth it! Feel free to comment if you need help getting started. I am fairly new at this, but I can share my own experiences and perhaps help point you in the right direction.
We often view snapshots in a positive way. We try to catch that perfect moment and freeze it in time to remember forever. For some, we use a snapshot to define how we feel about a person. We look at a photograph and it evokes strong emotions. But snapshots can be problematic as well. I’m not talking about instagram or an old photograph but rather, the snapshots that we carry in our minds, that color our thinking. These snapshots can be an unfair representation of a person, yet it is the view we insist on having. Sadly, these mental snapshots may be influenced by comments from family or friends; people who have not seen the whole movie, only random snapshots that don’t tell the whole story.
I don’t talk about my Dad much, except that he died when I was fifteen. The years after his death were traumatic as my Mom, brother and I struggled to maintain a semblance of family identity. My brother and I were rebellious teenagers and having our anchor dislodged unexpectedly made for very rough sailing for all of us. As the years went by and I dealt with the consequences of my immature decisions, I thought of my Dad less and less. I’m grateful that my Mom remained steadfast – she was always there for me no matter what. But for some reason, we didn’t talk much about Dad. We may have done the occasional reminiscing about a family event, but we didn’t dwell on his absence. Perhaps each one of us had a hole in our heart we didn’t know how to fill, so it was easier to ignore it rather than to acknowledge it.
But for me, there was also something else. Mental snapshots I remembered, and mental snapshots that other people told me about. Like any family, we struggled with dysfunction. For my Dad, it was alcoholism. No doubt about it, our family suffered because of it. Yet, my father faithfully went to Alcoholics Anonymous, made a commitment to Christ, and was completely sober the last two years of his life. Sadly, my childhood friend chose not to remember that when we were reminiscing a few years ago, but emphasized his sin instead. So almost forty years later, I felt shame instead of pride when I thought of my Dad. That wasn’t right and I shouldn’t have let my friend’s words influence me. We all have sins we struggle with – some are just more visible than others.
How could I let my friend’s mental snapshots of my Dad influence my attitude towards him, when I have so many more snapshots that speak to the love he had for our family? I must have been around six years old when he took me on a Daddy-daughter date. I remember putting on my best dress and I was amazed it was just us at a fancy restaurant. I felt so special! He used to insist we be on time for our bedtime and if we were one minute late he would get mad at us. I would be so upset that I made him angry, I would lay in my bed and cry, then creep down the hallway where I could see him through the cracked hallway door, sitting in his recliner watching television. He would see me peeking at him and tell me to come over and give me a hug. I remember when I fell off my horse and broke my ankle (I was around eleven years old), a young man found me and put me in his car and brought me to his mother’s house. I had not shed a single tear until I saw my Daddy in the doorway – then I burst out crying because my emotion at seeing him was so overwhelming. I was truly Daddy’s little girl. I loved to draw pictures for him that always had the caption “Best Daddy in the World.”
I remember a science project my Dad helped me with. He sold yard lights and he helped me build a street of cardboard and wire in yard lights in front of the houses. He bought his horse-crazy little girl her own horse, even though we didn’t have much money growing up. I remember waiting for him to come home from work so we could all eat dinner together. Afterwards, we would all sit in the living room (we each had our own chair) and I would curl up in mine and read while we watched the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Saturday Night Wrestling or Wonderful World of Disney. I also remember making him a bunny rabbit cake for Easter one year.
Dad bought me my first Bible – I wish I still had it but somewhere along the way it has gotten lost. I can still see it in my mind’s eye – the picture of Jesus on the cover. He made every Christmas special with his famous lasagna and would take us to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. He didn’t have a very good singing voice but that didn’t stop him as he loudly sang to the Lord in church. The last time I saw my Dad, he had taken me to the church that our Explorer’s post gathered at to leave for our mountain climbing trip to Philmont, New Mexico. When we hugged goodbye I had no idea that would be the last time I would see him on earth. These are just a few random memories of many…and sadly those negative snapshots from others had the effect of my shoving all of the good memories I had into a closet – something I deeply regret. It wasn’t fair to my Dad and it wasn’t fair to me.
It is so important to think before we speak – Ephesians 4:29 tells us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Don’t let other people’s words influence how you feel about someone. Instead, examine the relationship for yourself and search your heart. And let us give grace to one another – for we are all imperfect and in need of it. This blog post was forty years in the making. Dad, thank you for everything. I miss you and I am looking forward to seeing you again someday. I love you.
When I woke up on my birthday morning (three days ago), the thought immediately came to me “Today is the day the Lord has made, Rejoice and be glad in it.” I was very grateful for that, because the day before I had been struggling. I was struggling with the fact that I have been battling lower back pain the last few weeks, the knowledge that my body is getting older and telling me that in not always so subtle ways, missing those who have gone on to be with the Lord, especially my Mom, working towards getting a literary agent for my book (which can be a long, arduous process) and seeking where God is leading next. So when God had so graciously placed that thought in my head, He positioned me to see my life from a completely different perspective.
“Today is the day the Lord has made, Rejoice and be glad in it!”
Rejoice and be glad for:
A wonderful husband – Phil is my best friend and soulmate. He believes in my dreams, encourages me, and supports me.
An incredible son – Josh is seeking God’s will for his life and has recently been blessed with a wonderful job doing video work for a local church.
An amazing array of family – daughter Melissa – son-in-law Aaron – awesome grandkids / brothers – Eddie and Vinny / Sisters – Janet and Lynn / Sisters-in laws – Jane and Sara / loving nieces and nephews – the list goes on and on…
The gift of friends, near and far, many of whom expressed their Birthday wishes for me. Friends are truly a gift from God and I am grateful for each one.
Incredible experiences in my life – from climbing mountains to managing an engineering department. Leading an ESL ministry to being a college professor. Training horses and ranch work to writing two books. Preaching a sermon at a small country church to coordinating a school science fair. Getting to be a wife and mom and grandma. The list goes on and on, and I am truly humbled when I think of all of these blessings God has provided for me. Ephesians 3:20 comes to mind.
And most of all, for a Savior that loves me so much that He died for my sake and rose again to defeat death, so that I can be cleansed of my sins and have eternal life with Him. Not only that – He walks with me each day!
Thanks to everyone who took time out of your day to bless me with your Birthday wishes – I love you and I treasure them in my heart. And my prayer for each of you is that you too wake up each morning with the thought in your head:
“Today is the day the Lord has made, Rejoice and be glad in it!”
I have always had a hard time slowing down and just relaxing when there is always so much to do, but between a WONDERFUL book to read on a cold rainy day and the perfect reading companion – I just couldn’t resist. Kathleen Baldwin has managed to win me over to the historical fiction genre in a big way with her novel, A School for Unusual Girls. I must admit I initially purchased the book for my fifteen year old granddaughter who I was sure would enjoy it, both for her love of history and for her strong and intelligent personality, which seemed to me at first glance to also be an apt description of the main character. As I scanned the book before giving it to her, I realized that it had also grabbed my own interest and I ordered a second copy, both coming from Amazon. I’m so glad I did! There is so much fun stuff, I don’t want to give it away – but just know to settle in for a captivating read filled with strong and spunky heroines, handsome heroes, scientific experiments that sometimes go awry with lethal consequences, and ultimately a journey of maturation and finding one’s place; all back-dropped by an unstable and inflammatory time in European history where the individual decisions of the residents of Stranje House are pivotal in influencing the events swirling chaotically at a rapid pace around them.
The author takes the reader on a journey that leaves one reluctant to stop. Not only does she transport us to another time and place, she manages to make us identify with these unusual girls who have troubled pasts and to root for them. A wonderful message of redemption for those who do not feel compelled to follow the established rules of society but seek to remain true to their own calling, is woven through the story’s themes of transformation, love, and responsibility. Kathleen Baldwin writes with a masterful grasp of plot and pacing, keeping the reader thoroughly enticed with just enough mystery and intrigue (and the occasional breathtaking hint of romance). She strikes that amazing balance of fully satisfying at quintessential moments, yet leaving us yearning for the story to continue. Fortunately it does, in the next novel in the Stranje House series: Exiles for Dreamers. I have already purchased my copy and I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the next adventure that the Stranje House has in store!
You can learn more (including reading chapter excerpts), discover lots of cool extras, and check out Kathleen’s other writing endeavors, as well as find out additional places where A School for Unusual Girls is available for purchase, at KathleenBaldwin.com